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Perkiomen Valley's Tyler Lapetina takes high-scoring act to Juniata

05/10/2021, 5:45pm EDT
By Josh Verlin

Tyler Lapetina (above) was the Pioneer Athletic Conference's leading scorer as a senior. (Photo courtesy Owen McCue/Pottstown Mercury)

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

Tyler Lapetina was in the stands at Norristown Area High School watching Justin Jaworski lead Perkiomen Valley’s boys basketball team to the 2017 Pioneer Athletic Conference championship. The eighth-grader was sucked in by the future Lafayette star’s scoring and leadership abilities, enthralled as the Vikings won the title that night over Spring-Ford.

“It really inspired me to be in that position, wanting to go out in a high school varsity game and wanting to be like him,” Lapetina said by phone last week, “[to] be able to score at such a high (rate) and lead his team to multiple wins.”

The Vikings weren’t quite able to reach the heights that Jaworski led them to in 2017 — when they not only won the PAC but also advanced to the District 1 6A semifinals and even beat Roman Catholic in the first round of the state playoffs. But with Lapetina leading the way, this year’s Vikings’ squad finished atop the PAC Liberty standings, winning a district playoff game as well.

And like Jaworski, Lapetina will play at the next level, as the 5-foot-11 guard committed to Juniata College (Pa.) in the fall before his senior year. Eagles head coach Greg Curley saw Lapetina during the limited 2020 summer hoops season, as he was playing with Pro Skills Basketball, and soon became involved with the high-scoring guard, making several trips out from Huntingdon (Pa.) in the western part of state out to Collegeville to see Lapetina play.

“It was really cool to see how invested they were,” said Lapetina, who also was recruited by Albright, FDU-Florham, Lycoming, Ursinus and Del-Val. “The school is four hours away and their coach would be driving to my practices and my games, so it showed that they really liked my play and they really liked me and I really liked how much they were invested in me.”

Under Curley, who’s been head coach at the Division III program since 2001-02, the Eagles have seen recent success, going 23-6 (10-4 Landmark) in 2017-18, losing to Moravian in the Landmark championship game and advancing to the quarterfinals of the ECAC tournament, the regional D-III version of the NIT. 

This past year, playing an abbreviated schedule, they went 3-6. With three of their four leading scorers as freshmen — senior Cameron Keck was their top scorer at 10.2 ppg — Curley has a nice young core to hopefully build around.

While not a one-man show for Perk Valley, Lapetina has been one of the best scorers around the last couple years. As a senior, he averaged a PAC-leading 19.1 ppg, including 26 3-pointers in 15 games. It was a role that took him a while to develop; as a sophomore, Lapetina was still largely a JV player, stuck behind a large 2019 class led by Tyler Strechay, currently playing baseball at West Virginia.

“I wouldn’t say I was frustrated, because I believe in what Poysden does as a coach and knew he saw me as a player and knew I still needed time,” he said. “With such a huge graduating class after my sophomore year, I went right into a starting varsity junior role, it really came down on top of me, like I could do this, I could play.”

Though not the same level of athlete as Jaworski, Lapetina’s role in the offense was similar: play within head coach Mike Poysden’s calculating motion scheme, moving as much as possible off the ball to work free for 3-pointers or on backdoor cuts, and to get a bucket when his team needed it.

He started off as a strong outside shooter and then advanced his game off the bounce, becoming a better finisher around the rim through contact, a little more creative in his approach to the basket.

“He’s certainly not the biggest kid or the strongest kid but he made up for that in knack-y ways of founding scoring opportunities, and it was really fun to watch,” Poysden said. “I think he really set his mind to, I’m going to do what it takes to play at the next level. We talk all the time about putting in your work and being a grinder in the offseason and improving, and I think he bought in. It was a year-round commitment for Tyler.”

Well, not completely year-round.

Though Lapetina focuses on basketball nine out of 12 months of the year, his springs are spent on the baseball diamond, where he’s a starting pitcher, second baseman and third baseman for the Vikings’ squad. A lifelong player of both sports, he’s not ruling out trying to be a multi-sport athlete in college, though it won’t happen at first.

“I’m going to go up, see how my freshman year goes with basketball,” he said. “If I feel like I can manage my time while also keeping my grades up and everything, I’ll for sure try it.”

Lapetina actually has some idea of what he’s talking about in that regard. His neighbor and good friend is former Perkiomen Valley multi-sport athlete Sean Owens, who was the starting point guard on that 2017 squad and also starred on the football field as a wide receiver. 

Owens was recruited to Juniata as a football player, but ended up joining the basketball team midway through his junior year as they found themselves shorthanded. He only played sparingly in four games, but that was inspiration enough for Lapetina.

It also gave Owens unique insight into how Lapetina’s game might translate to the Landmark Conference, something the two discussed when Lapetina visited the campus prior to his commitment. 

“Offensively-wise obviously, college is a jump, so they expect more from you offensively, but honestly, it’s a similar offense to what Perk Valley does, with the motion offense,” Owens said. “I think the transition will be easy, a lot of off-ball screens, down screens, flair screens, back screens, reading screens. It’s a little different of course but it’s kind of the same thing PV does.

“I think (Tyler’s) a very good player, he’ll become a very good player. He definitely took a big jump this year since when I watched him play at Perk Valley. He’s long, he’s tall, he gets to his spots and he can score from all three levels, so I think Juniata’s a great fit for him.”

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